Guide to Leaving Cert English 2012, Poetry

Unseen Poetry – Paper 2, 2010 – Seed by Paula Meehan

Unseen Poetry – Seed by Paula Meehan

  • I’ve decided to post about ‘Unseen Poetry’ because it’s one of those areas that can get ignored by students because it’s not something you can study for.
  • However, you can study for it – it’s all about practice and becoming familiar with the type of questions they ask.
  • There are two questions – one is made up of two individual questions which merit 10 marks each and the other is usually a personal response, worth 20 marks.
  • I’m going to deal with Question 1 in this post because the personal response is much less pointed, and if we’re being honest, it’s much easier.
  • However, if you choose to write about your personal response (which I’d recommend if you’re stuck for time), then I’d suggest that you look towards the first two questions to give you an idea about what to talk about.
  • The trick to getting the 20 marks in this question is pretty simple – answer the question and avoid any unnecessary quoting.
  • It’s so tempting to use as many quotes as you can to illustrate your point, but this is much more suited to the prescribed poetry section, rather than this question, which just proves you can read!
  • Underline the key words in the question and focus on them in your answer.

1.   (a)  What in your view is the mood of this poem? Explain briefly how it is conveyed.

Make reference to the text in support of your answer.  (10)

In my opinion, the mood of this poem is one hope and optimism. Despite the initial mood of gloom and sorrow, “Seed” develops into a beautiful poem which speaks to the power of hope and positvity.  In the opening lines, Meehan says “I step out into the garden from the gloom of a house where hope had died and tally the storm damage”. At this juncture, the tone and mood is somewhat dark, as it’s suggested that not everything has survived the storm. However, the discovery of some “forgotten lupins” excites and inspires the poet and her tone changes to a more hopeful and thankful one, thus changing the mood of the poem. She says “I am suddenly grateful and would offer a prayer if I believed in God, but not believing, I bless the power of the seed”. It doesn’t matter that Meehan isn’t religious because she recognises the ‘power of the seed’ and praises its endless abilities. In my mind, a seed conjures up and image of growth and fertility and of new beginnings and hope. Even though the poet doesn’t find solace in religion, she recognises and appreciates the power of nature. The arrival of the seed means that “the winter’s ended” and this is an extremely important message. It not only expresses the wonder of the seed as a means of new beginnings but underscores the hopeful, positive and optimistic mood of the poem.

  • Here you can see that this isn’t an overly complicated answer and in actual fact, I’ve tried to keep the answer as concise as possible. This is a 20 mark question, so you’re not going to be giving it the same amount of time as you’d give other questions, so naturally you’re not expected to go into the same amount of detail.
  • The question deals with the poem’s ‘mood’ which is often communicated through the tone, so your answer should reflect that in some way.
  • I’ve given a short answer that refers to the question throughout and avoided any unnecessary or superfluous words that only add pomp to your answer.
  • I’ve also tried not to over quote – this really isn’t that impressive, given that the poem is in front of you. If you’re over quoting, the examiner immediately recognises it as padding and an avoidance of the question.

(b)  Choose one image from the poem that appealed to you.  Explain your choice.    



“Seed” by Paula Meehan is a beautiful poem that contains a plethora of images which communicate the wonder of the seed. An image that appealed to me is one of the poet discovering a lupin in the aftermath of the storm. Meehan says that the lupins were “holding in their fingers a raindrop each like a peace offering or a promise”. I find this image to be extremely powerful and inspiring. Meehan recognises the damage of the storm as she “emerges from a house where hope had died”, but this discovery somehow reconciles the damage. I think that the poet acknowledges the cathartic qualities of the flower and it’s perceptible that Meehan views it as something which has the ability to withstand the harsh conditions of the storm. The idea that it is a promise is representative of the hope it brings with it. The raindrops have emerged from the storm in splendid glory and I believe that Meehan is communicating an uplifting message which is resoundingly positive. The raindrops are uses as a metaphor for new life and new beginnings. Meehan also personifies the flower, which elevates its importance and allows the reader to relate to it on a human level. The fact that it emerged “holding” the raindrops further exemplifies the immense power of nature. Throughout the poem, we are made aware of the regenerative qualities of the seed and this image highlights its ability to overcome adversity and emerge stronger than ever. Paula Meehan wishes to convey how something as small as a seed can be so powerful and important and her message is touching and uplifting. This image of the resilient lupin is not only one of the poem’s most appealing images, but it elucidates Meehan’s hopeful and upbeat message.

  • Once again, this is a simple answer, but it attends to the question throughout.
  • I’ve chosen my image and explained how it appealed to me.
  • What I’ve also tried to do is relate that image to the rest of the poem.
  • The important thing is to be aware of the question the question throughout and avoid waffling.

One thought on “Unseen Poetry – Paper 2, 2010 – Seed by Paula Meehan

  1. Chloe says:

    Thanks! This is the question I’m currently doing. Would you be able to put up a sample Personal Response just so we can see how to write one? I know everyone will have a different response, but just to get an idea. No bother if you can’t 🙂

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